Rewrites

Today’s topic is rewrites–for several reasons. First reason being, I just rewrote the first chapter of my novel Capacitance in anticipation of posting it on here soon. It was not easy for me to rewrite a chapter. As a writer (and I am sure many of you can relate to this) it is very hard to chop out, delete or otherwise maim sentences and paragraphs we have so carefully constructed. There is some truth to this hesitant attitude–some words you put down are important, and you don’t want to lose the essential, natural quality of your writing voice. However, the first draft is, by design not tight and polished. It is done to get the story out of the mind and onto the paper. Naturally, there will be some polishing left to do. Thus, stay true to your story and voice, but learn what doesn’t fit or needs omitted. Work with the white space–give your readers some credit and don’t get too wordy. This was one of my struggles in rewriting. My first chapter contained a lot of description (specifically of where my MC’s beautifully decorated apartment); to me, this was fascinating because I am interested in the intricacies of interior design. Will all readers be captivated by an inventory of interior finishes? Probably not. That section–after coaxing from an unofficial CP partner–was cut. Hopefully I can weave some of the description back in through various sections of the novel. Small doses are better for building than numbing readers minds with a long chunk of exposition.

The second reason I want to discuss rewrites today concerns a comment on my blog post yesterday concerning the need to perfect everything before putting it to paper. I am not promoting the method of writing without care or detailed attention, but there comes a point where you have to throw caution to the wind. Do your best, but assume you are going to have to go back and edit regardless. My first chapter rewrite is a great example–I scrawled that first draft copy of it with a flow of words that spewed forth after three years of writer’s block, and I considered it to be a great entry into my book after many lackluster attempts. Looking back at that Chapter 1 now, I find it slow and not effective as well as not being in the voice of the rest of my novel. I was not in my element. However, had I analyzed it so harshly at the time of writing, I may not have put it to paper, and I may have still been stuck with writer’s block interminably. Long story short: write your best right now, perfect it later.

I am SO CLOSE to 100 likes on my Facebook page! It won’t be long now until I can show you all the (rewritten) first chapter of Capacitance!

Getting Words to the Page–Insight Into My Writing Process

It has been awhile since I have done a post about the writing process itself. The #QueryKombat Twitter party prompt for today has inspired me to go into more depth in this post about my writing process–where my ideas come from, the struggle of getting them to paper, and little glimpses into my process as a whole.

If you have read my blog at all, you know I write without a super detailed outline. So my ideas are free flowing. Usually, I don’t have a specific trajectory for the scene I am writing, or what the next scene will be. I have certain parameters which I like to structure for each individual chapter. I like to visualize each chapter when I sit down to write as the skeleton frame of an unfinished house–I know the basics of what this chapter will accomplish, but details get fleshed out as I go. While I am writing the chapter, that is when “the house,” to continue that analogy, gets walls and floors, etc.

Having the skeleton framework ready in my mind before I start a chapter is extremely important. If I don’t know a general concept of what I will be writing that day, I just won’t write. The blank page gets too intimidating when I have no clue whatsoever what to put down onto it. This has happened quite a bit during the drafting of Inductance, and also towards the end of Capacitance–these mini episodes of writer’s block pop up and steal a day of writing from me at times. However, I have a couple ways I combat this problem. The first, and most effective, is to go on a long run; the physical and mental benefits of distance running are enormous. As I coast down the hills and under the dappled shadows cast by trees, my mind wanders and my characters seem to speak to me. Entering a state of intense focus, I usually come away from a run with my mind centered and ready to write–I know the framework for what needs to come next. The second trick I use to spark my mind back into the story is to pull out my hard copy of the manuscript and read and edit it lightly. This re-familiarizes me with the characters and their stakes and usually prompts me to what needs to come next. Another tip: when I have several chapter ideas that I know I want to eventually construct, I write them all down in a list. Thus, I have many productive days crafting the chapters off the list!

The #QueryKombat prompt specifically asked writers if they prefer to write during the night or day. As I tweeted, I prefer to write in the early evening, in the hours leading up to supper. However, this is by no means a dominating preference as I can write at any time of day, as long as inspiration and time allow. All times of the day have their benefits–to me, the main point is just to get the words on the page. Don’t slot yourself into “only being able to write in the mornings” or, “I never write before 10 PM”–write whenever you can, when the mood strikes you, when you find yourself scrolling absentmindedly through Facebook! Habits are good to make, but as writers, we need to be flexible and not use our habits as excuses to procrastinate.

Finally, music. Another prompt featured on today’s #QueryKombat question. I have always been strange about music; I can’t stand it while I am writing, reading or doing some other deeply concentrated type of work. Don’t get me wrong, I love music! However, it distracts my brain heavily. Music does influence my work in other ways, though. Different songs remind me of my characters. The song “Superstar” by Broods reminds me of Mara and Runey’s relationship in Capacitance. I prefer music to inspire me in my non-writing times!

This post could go on for days–there are so many different stories and struggles to share about my writing process. Share your writing habits below! 🙂 And don’t forget to like my Facebook page–there’s now a “like” button on the sidebar of my homepage! I am at 84 likes thus far; when I reach 100 I will be sharing the first chapter of Capacitance! Like, like, like!

Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference 2015

I had so much fun attending the Henderson Writers’ Group Conference in Las Vegas, that I just registered for another conference next month! I will be attending the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference June 26-28 in Austin, Texas! Since I live in Kansas (and drive a fun little car) I am going to be road tripping down south–just me and the open road, mind clear, practicing my pitch. I can’t wait!

The pitch will be important as there are 19 literary agents from big name agencies such as Trident, Writers House, and Curtis Brown, to name a few! While pitch sessions with agents are paid add-ons to the conference fee and are limited to two agents (I won’t be table hopping my pitch to everyone like I did in Vegas, haha!), the number of agents at this conference makes it more likely that I will be able to approach them in a casual setting. This conference appears to include a lot of casual settings, like cocktail hours, that could be great opportunities to meet and network with the agents and editors. I am going for all three days of the conference rather than just one day like I did in Las Vegas, so I plan to take full advantage of the opportunities to meet new people.

Considering I already have one conference under my belt, here are some things I won’t be doing this time around.

1. Stressing about my outfit. The wardrobe choices I saw at the last conference were much more casual and varied than I expected. When it comes to conferences, stay true to your personal style and you’ll be fine–worry more about polishing your pitch.

2. Bringing my entire manuscript. This is absolutely unnecessary. I know I said otherwise last time, but my aching shoulder and the entire universe of common sense would argue otherwise–everything is done through email these days. What makes you think an agent is going to love your work so much that they would be just as eager and willing as you to lug around a 300 page boxed manuscript all day? Save your posture, leave it at home.

3. Attending only business related class sessions. In Las Vegas, I stuck to the business side of writing lectures. This led to immense boredom and repetition; I had read most of the advice on the Internet due to my extensive and slightly obsessive research on query writing, agents, etc. Of course, I still plan on attending some business aspect classes as I know I still have a lot to learn, but I want to experience some writing craft sessions as well this time around.

Leave me a comment below if you’re planning on attending the #WLT2015 ! Also, I don’t believe I have mentioned this on the blog just yet, but I will be posting the first chapter of Capacitance once my Facebook page hits 100 likes. If you want to speed this process up a bit 😉 please like my page at https://www.facebook.com/emhardenburger ! Can’t wait to start sharing my work with you all!

#QueryKombat

I have posted before about writing as a “pantser,” and now I am entering my first writing contest as a pantser. I heard about #QueryKombat at the writers conference in Las Vegas, and it sounded intriguing and a great way to gain a social media presence and, potentially, agent representation. However, querying quagmire and vacation came up and occupied most of my time, and before I knew it, the contest date had arrived. Thus, my “pantser” attitude towards it all. I was not going to enter, because I have not spent countless hours preparing. This fact still gives me pause, but I think I need to throw my hat in the ring, just as a learning experience.

The #QueryKombat contest opens today (right now, actually), and contestants submit their query and the first 250 words of their MS. 64 contestants are chosen and their queries go head to head until only one winner is left. There is a judge round and then an agent round. It all sounds very interesting and certainly beneficial to make it to the agent round! If you want to learn more about the contest, you can visit this link: http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.com/2015/04/query-kombat-2015.html

After an intensive day of polishing my query and first 250 words, I am going to enter. I won’t deny the fact that I am a little nervous about it, but as I have said every time doubts pop up, I have to be persistent and start somewhere. Never try, never know has been a useful motto in many areas of my life, not the least in my career as a writer.

Is anyone else entering #QueryKombat? Wish me luck, and I will keep you posted!

Social Media & Being an Author

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was on a (much needed) vacation to California! The need for vacations to take a step back from your work is a topic for an entirely different post, but I can sum it up to this: sometimes it’s necessary to not think about your novel, to escape and have new experiences which will influence your writing, and to be in a more sublime environment so when an agent rejection pops up in your email, you take it in stride and order another wine sample! 😉

Today, I wanted to focus on a subject that has been giving me major headaches–the dichotomy between being an artist and thus trying to be a free spirit while at the same time being cognizant of the pressing need to create an online presence. This need for a writer’s platform necessitates the use of social media. Writers, as a rule, hate social media. We would rather be writing! However, our ultimate goal is to be read, and to be read and gain notice in today’s world means hashtagging and blogging our way to fame. Hopefully that prospect turns everyone’s stomachs as much as it does mine. It is a very imposing goal; in the millions of individuals out there on the internet, how do you make a difference?

It’s a question I, unfortunately, cannot answer in this post. But I do welcome good suggestions! The first step for me is simply, getting out there. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was literally: “Tweet less.” Obviously, that is not going to fly. I have been trying to force myself to tweet more lately, and have gone to excessive use of hashtags. Today, I activated a Facebook account (under much mental stress), and a LinkedIn page. I am looking into #QueryKombat, which appears to be a great way to get some exposure as well as potentially awesome contacts with agents and editors! The Internet is a crazy, intimidating place, but I hope to do my research and find some success in it.

I want to get the word out soon because I am going to be doing something very exciting here on the blog. I am going to be posting sample chapters of Capacitance! I want the novel to get exposure and hopefully build momentum. Stay tuned on chapter one coming soon!

With that being said, follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@elisemarie52), and Facebook (Elise Hardenburger)! And comment below with any tips how you got your online following started. 🙂

Plotting as a Pantser

First of all, I have to get it off my chest that I really hate the term “pantser.” However, it seems to be the term in the literary world to describe the kind of writer I am–one who sits down at the computer and miraculously spins out chapter after chapter, never looking at an outline. It is a rather horrifying concept, when one thinks about it too much. How I don’t get lost in it all is beyond me, at times. However, it is the way I innately write; it always has been, even when I wrote literary critical analysis in college. To someone like me, the structuring of an outline brings a stricture of panic into the chest and usually an onset of acute writer’s block.

However, sometimes plotting is necessary. I have found it just as challenging to adhere to my pantser instincts during my sequel novel, Inductance, as I find it to sit down and create an outline. It is quite necessary to have somewhat of a plan for Inductance as it is so action-packed. When writing something action-packed, the structure must be so tight and riveting, that an outline is very helpful. Writing down what is going to happen next and who will be involved in it helps tighten up loose ends and bring all the elements together.

I would not be true to my ill-named pantser status if I did not do at least some of my writing on a whim–it’s simply what I am most comfortable with, and some of my best prose just spills off my fingertips when I let them get carried away. Thus, I reached a compromise for hopefully the remainder of Inductance. I have outlined some key plot points that I know need to happen. While running on my treadmill yesterday, I brainstormed them, then I made myself sit and physically write them out (an anathema for pantsers). Now I think I have achieved a great balance–my mind still has some creative freedom as it is not too hemmed in by the outline, but the need for some structured framework has been settled. So now I can be a pantser operating within a plot–I think it will work out beautifully!

Rejection–A Necessary Evil

Last week I started sending out query letters. Inevitably, I started receiving rejections. My biggest surprise upon receiving these rejection emails was that the agents had taken the time to actually hammer out a rejection;  usually it was only one line of text, but it was more than I expected after reading the horror stories on various blogs of sitting anxiously for months and months, never getting a response. Thus, a quick “Sorry, this isn’t for me.” was completely more shocking than the denial itself.

I was denied by three agents last week–plus, I had the bad luck of all three denying me on the same day! Rejection is always hard to take, but I was expecting it, so I didn’t take it as hard. I began my queries with some of the top agencies in the country, and it was asking a lot to ask my query to live up to their exacting standards. But it was worth a shot. It’s always worth a shot–you never know when that one special agent will read your words and fall in love with your novel. Many blogs and websites say that finding an agent is a lot like finding a romantic partner; you have to just get each other. I’m sure most people would agree that the search for love is not supposed to be easy, and you almost never get it right the first time. Just like we’ve all had a bad date, the querying process isn’t going to be love at first sight with every agent. But just because you’ve had a bad date, or the relationship you thought was sure to be “the one” didn’t work out doesn’t mean you stop dating. Thus, rejections shouldn’t mean it’s time to stop querying–yes they are frustrating, but who wants an agent who isn’t the right fit?

In the meantime, between these “bad dates,” I am making myself fall a bit less in love with Capacitance. If I sink my heart into it too much, rejection gets all the more difficult to handle. Now my challenge is to walk the thin line between confidence and blind adoration of my novel. It is not “my baby” anymore, it is a marketable product–while I can be confident in its qualities, I cannot be overly sensitive if it is not the right product for everyone.

Admittedly, I did take a few days off from querying. Maybe that is not weakness–maybe it’s for the best, since I have gotten rather off track in my work on Inductance. However, I will resume my efforts to find and agent and get published; I want my books to be read and I won’t stop until that effort is fulfilled.